The Dream of a Managed Desktop

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

Intel's unique vPro technology offers increased functionality to solution providers.

Often thought of as a marketing buzz word akin to Centrino and ViiV, Intel's vPro processor technology brings a lot more opportunity to solution providers than many realize.

What makes vPro unique is that the management technology is built into the hardware and the fact that it does not rely on a software component or additional hardware to be effective. In other words, if you're selling the latest generation of Intel business-class motherboards, you are already equipping your customers with the foundation for remote desktop management.

For solution providers, the key term to know here is "out of band management." Why is that term so important? It all comes down to how a managed PC (or server) can be accessed. Out of band management has its roots in another term, LOM (lights out management), a technology that allows an administrator to manage a PC, even when it is turned off.

Intel's take on the technology adds a few other capabilities to the mix that make the technology useful to the emerging managed services provider. The company has built into the vPro technology the ability to access the target PC's bios, remote power on the PC, the ability to remotely load an operating system and more. Since all of that takes place over an IP connection, no additional hardware or LOM components are needed, no special management appliances are required and no additional software must be loaded onto the target PC.

That portion of the technology removes the need for site visits to handle most pre-boot related problems and also gives the ability to boot diagnostic media from the solution provider's location of choice. Services-centric VARs no longer need to have trucks roll to handle a misconfigured bios, partition drives or to reload images. That is a big savings for both VARs and their customers, allowing VARs to offer improved response times, while increasing the billing per technician.

While vPro may sound perfect, there are some caveats. First, since the technology can only be fully leveraged in a Windows environment, those supporting Macs, Sun Workstations and, in some cases, Linux will have to look elsewhere.

Also, there is the specter of competition from tier one manufactures, especially Dell following its recent acquisition of SilverBack. Now that Dell's technologies are married to vPro technology it allows the company to offer managed PC services. Only time will tell if Dell can pull that off and get the SME market to trust them.

Also, solution providers need to be aware of the infrastructure requirements associated with vPro. That infrastructure can consist of something as simple as a VPN into a customer's network or be as advanced as a hosted management platform from the likes of Level Platforms.

While the overall future of vPro may be somewhat uncertain, solution providers can be sure that the managed desktop has arrived and is here to stay.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com